Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Darling Harbor is Darling, Blue Mountains- Three Sisters and Bushwalking

The past two days have been full of activity and fun.  I went to Darling Harbor yesterday which is an adorable part of the city full of restaurants, shops, tourist attractions, and the Maritime museum.  I opted to go to the Aquarium.  I saw lots of beautiful fish but frankly nothing that was amazing I haven't seen diving except for some rare sawfish and a very cool fish called a flashlight fish.  The fish live in pitch black water but their eyes shine an eerie green color that glow in the dark. I still had some time to kill so I figured I might as well do the Wildlife experience which was right next to the aquarium.  This was pretty unique since I got the chance to see many of Sydney's rare and renown species.  I saw kangaroos, a platypus, wallabies, wild dingos, emus, and one of the world's largest crocodiles. Australia is also home to the most poisonous spiders in the world and after leaving that exhibit I kept feeling itchy.  My favorite part of the experience was I had the opportunity to interact with a koala.  This means that for $25, I get to go into an enclosure and have my picture taken right next to a couple of koalas and even get to pet them!  It has been a lifelong dream to do that and I was stoked to get the chance to do it.
After finishing my touristy activities, I met up with my friend  Ranjani who was also visiting Sydney from Singapore.  We found a restaurant that was already serving happy hour at 3:30 and shared a nice bottle of wine over the course of the next two hours and talked about what our experiences have been like moving to Singapore since she has had to go through about everything I have experienced as well including finding a new job, apartment hunting, and being home alone a lot. I am very grateful I connected with her since we moved.
We met up with Drew, Ranj's husband, and another colleague from the LinkedIn Sydney office at a bar and had a drink before going to dinner at Malay.  I know it doesn't make any sense to leave Singapore, go all the way to Sydney, and eat Malaysian food, but several people all said this was their favorite restaurant.  The food did not disappoint. It was extremely flavorful, not too heavy, and absolutely delicious.  We had black pepper chicken, a coconut fish curry, and some kind of lamb dish. I walked out feeling extremely full.
Today I took a two hours train ride out of Sydney and up into the Blue Mountains.  From everything I have read online, it didn't seem a trip to Sydney would be complete without coming up here.  I braved the CityLine and drug my suitcase and backpack to the train station, had to change trains at Central, and then rode a good 2 hours through the suburbs of Sydney and up into the mountains.  I am staying in the city of Leura at a quaint little hotel by myself tonight and am proud to say I have managed to navigate my way around pretty well.
I got up here around 1 and rather than taking a taxi from the train station, I decided I would walk.  It ended up being almost 2km (1.2 miles) dragging my suitcase through residential streets to find my hotel. Once I checked in, I packed my backpack and called a taxi to take me to Echo Point which is the central point in Katoomba (the next village up) to go bushwalking.   Bushwalking is the Ozzie term for hiking.  I enlisted the help of a guy in the information booth and told him I wanted a challenging hike that would also be beautiful.  He sent me on the perfect route.  You start by walking out to Three Sisters, which many people know of as a famous rock formation in the Blue Mountains, and then down the Giant Stairway.  I find it pretty funny they couldn't come up with a more creative name, but it really is a GIANT Stairway.  There are 1,000 steps down from the top of the cliff into the canyon and they are very steep, uneven, and narrow.  Many are formed right into the rock and if there were not two railings on either side, one misstep would lead to certain death.  I was very happy the guide has suggested I go down these steps first rather than sending me the opposite direction so I would have ended up coming up them.  The others bushwalkers seemed miserable that were on the way up.   Once I was down at the bottom the stairwell, I made a left toward Dardanelles and walked through this forest and had to fight off wild snakes, dodge poisonous spiders and machete my way through the greenery.... JUST KIDDING.  The forest was very lush though and there were several huge trees that had fallen across the path so that you had to nearly crawl underneath them.  Because there is such heavy rainfall in this region, I trekked through a lot of mud and at one point my shoe sunk down several inches and I was worried I wouldn't be able to get it out. I walked the first 30 minutes without seeing another person which kind of concerned me but finally I passed a couple and then later another guy.  After Dardanelles, you walk through Federal Pass.  This is a gorgeous area full of waterfalls, creeks, and beautiful scenery.  I took so many pictures initially and by the end you're just thinking..."oh, there's another one"'.  I was very happy to have made the trip, ended up hiking for almost 3 hours and worked up a huge sweat in doing so.  I will have lots of great pictures from today.  Going to try to catch a bus and head into town to grab dinner and then get a good night's sleep tonight as I have a full 8 hour day tomorrow of canyoning and abseiling (rappelling) before getting on a train to head back to Sydney and have dinner with a comScore colleague.
Also, our offer was rejected on the apartment and even though we gave the almost asking price, the brother and sister who own it decided they wanted to ask for an additional $700 which is what the previous tenant was paying. Drew and I might put in an offer on one of the older places we saw that was substantially cheaper but had beautiful views, lots of living space, and was well located. Trying to keep up the attitude if it is meant to be it will happen.  Two years is a very long time to sign a lease for and we don't want to get stuck in a place we will end up hating.

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